WELD Seattle: Helping Seattle’s Homeless Right Now
Seattle's total number of homeless is topped only by Los Angeles and New York City
According to both King County and the Seattle Times, Seattle has the third largest homeless population in the entire nation. It is estimated that over 10,000 homeless will seek shelter on any given night. Of that number, Seattle ranks fifth in the nation with over 47% of the homeless population sleeping outside each night.
A local issue
Shocking to those who believe that Seattle’s services are attracting homeless from outside metro-areas, a recent survey found that over 87% of the homeless population were housed right here in King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties prior to taking to the streets. This data is forcing local authorities and reform activists to reframe their thinking on the roots of the issue.
Not all who wander are lost
It is a common misconception that most all homeless people have found themselves in such desperate circumstances due exclusively to a drug or alcohol abuse issue. Though substance abuse does rank in the top three reasons cited on a recent survey, the most commonly endured reason for being homeless was the loss of a job. Other top ranking responses include eviction and divorce.
A fresh start
For those released from incarceration having paid their debt to society, re-integrating into a world that left them behind can often be a highly daunting task. On top of that, getting hired or maintaining a job while having a criminal record can prove more than difficult.
Research clearly shows that those who do not find safe housing in the community are far more likely to return to prison than those that do. This can have a direct impact on former inmates themselves, but also their families, children, and communities as well.
Affordable housing is considered to be one of the main catalysts for reducing homeless. When surveyed, over 77% of homeless respondents cited that they would take advantage of affordable housing given the opportunity.
Weld Seattle is a non-profit organization offering clean and sober housing for former prisoners and those in recovery from addiction. We at Home Docket have teamed up with this alliance of banks and other real estate developers to tackle our homeless issue here in Seattle.
We are proud to work with WELD and offer incentives and options to our builders and developers for their properties and projects. The Weld team collaborated with City of Seattle and developed a statewide code of law (RCW) to make it possible to offer aid through real estate. These reforms allow for incentives for builders and developers to participate in the program, thus boosting the scope of the program and the number of homeless who in-turn benefit.
How does Weld work?
When builders or developers buy property, they must engage in a design review and permitting process with the city or county. During this time, these homes often sit vacant. With Seattle’s housing issue at a relative crisis point, this is wasteful and a poor use of our city’s finite resources and inventory.
Additionally, applying to lease a home or apartment can be very difficult for someone with a criminal background. Weld sought to creatively address these issues. They provide temporary housing for Weld members in future development sites. Seattle Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) does not apply, as the Weld members are considered members of the program, not tenants of the home.
How our builders are helping the issue
Builders provide Weld with 20 days notice identifying the next available home. From there, Weld helps move their housing recipients into their new housing. Thereby reducing homelessness and housing insecurity with a very direct and hands-on approach. This allows greater flexibility and more incentive for the developers and builders, as the permitting process is not always a predictable timeline.
Builders and developers are further incentivized by their ability to deduct market rate rent from their taxes, and waive property tax during the time of a Weld occupancy. Weld sets up the homes, providing furniture and essentials to help individuals achieve a fresh start. Once a Weld member is ready to transition to more permanent housing, Weld cleans up the property once the members have left.
Part of the community
Weld works hard to ensure that each member has ample support for reform and recovery. A housing manager lives on site with the members to provide immediate support. Members attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings when necessary, and must remain drug- and alcohol-free to retain membership with Weld.
Through sharing and community building, housing members receive strong support from fellow members of the organization as well. Weld organizes regular activities for the members. As part of the arrangement, members pay monthly fees to the non-profit for their involvement.
Moving on to what’s next
One of the biggest barriers for people reentering society after serving time is employment. It can be nearly impossible to find employers willing to hire someone with a record. This contributes to recidivism, or further criminal activity. To combat this issue, Weld provides vocational job training on construction sites for their members.
Weld carefully screens all members and does not allow sex offenders into the program, due to difficulty with the issues of shared housing and public safety.
Compared to about 75% criminal recidivism for general population in prison today, Weld members have a 4% criminal recidivism rate.
This demonstrates the dramatic effect of safe and stable housing, a supportive community, and steady employment
There is no one stop solution to the Seattle homeless crisis. Instead real change will only come through organized community efforts to take care of our own. At Home Docket, we are proud to support Weld Seattle as they continue their proven track record of success reforming homeless and incarcerated individuals.
Weld has offered a creative solution
Weld has offered a creative solution to multiple social concerns, providing safe transitional housing and employment to a vulnerable population, while eliminating the myriad issues with vacant properties
If you would like to learn more about our experience with Weld, contact us to discuss how you can get involved.
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